Sunday, April 7, 2013

Psychological Profile

Daredevils' rules have a reputation for being cumbersome, which I consider to be unfair – for the most part.  Daredevils represents a refinement of Charrette and Hume's Aftermath!, published by FGU the year prior to Daredevils.  I readily concede that “cumbersome” is an understatement for Aftermath! (it consists of 223 pages spread among three books) but Daredevils (contained within 64 pages) lists some rules as “Advanced” and others as “Optional.”  By disregarding Advanced and Optional rules, one finds the 'baseline' Daredevils game to be rather straight-forward (with a noteworthy exception being the 'damage' rules).

There are six Attributes in Daredevils:  Wit, Will, Strength, Deftness, Speed, and Health. Players determine Attribute scores by allocating from a pool of 75 points.  (Although not unique among role-playing games, non-random Attribute determination was unusual when Daredevils was first published.)  For humans, Attribute values range from 1 to 40, with a score of 10-15 being 'average.'  Attributes can be increased during character generation.  During play, Attributes can be directly improved via training; an Attribute can also be improved as a result of improving the value of a skill associated with the Attribute.  (e.g., The 'Pistol' skill is primarily associated with Deftness; a sufficient increase the skill's value can raise a character's Deftness score.)  Contrary to the declarations of others, Attribute scores in excess of 40 cannot be attained through “training and experience.”  As page 4 of the rule book clearly indicates, “A rating greater than 40 is not possible for a human without mechanical, chemical or supernatural aid.”

The concept of 'Talents' is covered in Daredevils' Advanced rules.  There are seven Talents:
Charismatic:  Leadership and the ability to influence people.

Combative:  “Aggressiveness, the 'will to win,' and raw fighting ability.”

Communicative:  Aptitude with languages and ability to express ideas.

Esthetic:  Ability to appreciate and create/perform works of art.

Mechanical:  Technological aptitude.

Natural:  “Affinity for the the natural environment.”

Scientific:  Logical thinking.
I like the notion of Talents to represent certain aspects of characters, but I think the implementation of Talents in Daredevils is a bit off.  For instance, the rules insist that the Wit Attribute is not a matter of intelligence.  “The native 'intelligence' of a character depends on that of the player.”  Wit is instead “Perception ability” and capacity for learning.  I appreciate the idea of character intelligence being player intelligence, but it seems that concept goes out the window if the 'Scientific' Talent is used.  Also, the Will Attribute “includes the character's drive and determination.”  This would seem to overlap substantially with the “will to win” ascribed to the Combative Talent.

Talents – if the rule is in use – help determine skill values.  For instance, the Mechanical Talent contributes to the 'Lockpicking' skill value and the Natural Talent is applied to the 'History' skill value (for reasons I have yet to appreciate).  Talents can also be used to represent a character's unskilled ability; if character without the Lockpicking skill tries to pick a lock, his or her Mechanical Talent could be used to gauge success.

Although Attributes in Daredevils are not determined randomly, Talents – to some extent – are.  The initial values of a character's Talents are considered as his or her “psychological profile.”  For each Talent, 1d10 is rolled and the “Psychological Profile Table” on page 5 is consulted.  The result is a number from –2 to +3.  Although a single die is used, the probability distribution is not flat, a result of 0 is three-times more likely than one of the extreme results.  Then the result of 2d6 added to 20 determines how many points the player may allocate among the Talents.  The maximum value for a Talent is 20 and the minimum is –2.  (Talent scores may not be reduced below their initial values.)  Once the points are allocated, the “psychological profile” is meaningless.  Why not just have every Talent start at zero and let players distribute thirty points?  For a “psychological profile” with greater impact, each character could have 'favored' and 'unfavored' Talents – perhaps randomly determined, perhaps not.  During character generation, 'favored' Talents could be easier to improve (e.g., a points-to-value ratio of 2:3) while 'unfavored' Talents could be more expensive (e.g., three points spent only increases value by two).

Here, I just threw together a table no one will ever use!  You're welcome!

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